Monthly Archives: May 2008

Israel Denies Palestinians Right To West Bank Housing

During the past seven years, the Israel government has pursued a consistent program of making it difficult to build housing on the West Bank. Accoording to the UN Office for the Coordiantion of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel also demolished 1,500 Palestinian owned structures while making it easy for Israelis to build on the West Bank. At present there are 3,000 demolition orders pending aganst Palestinian-owned structures in those areas. Quartet Middle east envoy, Tony Blair, told reporters earlier this month that Israel had agreed to reconsider some of its demolition orders.

The reality is that Israel has denied 94% of West Bank construction requests from Arabs. The West Bank was supposed to be part of a Palestinian state, but the continued Israel building makes it increasingly more difficult to create a Palestinian state that has economic viability while hindering opportunities for negatiation. The denial of Palestinian rights makes it more likely Palestinians will seek to support more radical elements like Hamas. In many ways, the blind Israel policy of West Bank construction contains the seeds for future violence.

Homeland Security Head Urges Pakistan To Fight

Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff warned Pakistan to fight back against terrorism or they will experience future attacks like the one which led to the death of Beazir Buhtto. He said extremists are a threat to the security of Pakistan and it was important for the Pakistan govenment to see that “it ensures control and strikes back against terrorism,” he told reporters at Bagram base near Kabul in Afghanistan. There was no response from the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan, but it appears the Pakistan government is moving along a different road to peace than the one being followed by the Bush administration. Its government reached an accord in the Mohammand Agency that will ensure a halt to Taliban attacks. A meeting of elders in a jirga with Taliban representatives resulted in assurances from the terror group they will cease attacking government officials and made it a point to state that females wearing veils would not be attacked.

The Pakistan government has insiste it was working to reach agreements with miitants who are ready to lay down their arms and did not consider such negotiations to constitute cooperating with terrorism.

Brritish Student Prank Becomes International Incident

A British student in Vermont created an international incident by going to a gun shop and attempting to purchase a weapon using a fake ID. The gun shop owner noticed the ID was fake and immediately notified police. The student, Stephen Jackley, fled the scene, backed his car into another vehicle and zoomed off only to be apprehended a mile down the road by Vermont police. The boy said he had been bet $200 that he could not purchase a gun with a fake ID and took up the dare only to wind up arousing concern in two nations.

Jackley attended the University of Worcester which immediately became the scene of a police effort to seal off the campus and conduct a search for weapons. In searching Jackley’s room, police discovered a “suspicious package” which eventually turned out not to be a “suspicious package.” There is talk of extradting Jackley back to Great Britain where other searches undoubtedly will discover “suspicious packages” that are just packages.

The incident is a trivial one, there was no danger, but it reflects a current attitude that any example of stupidity on the part of a student must be construed as a potential threat to society. Students have been taking bets and dares for hundreds of years and will continue doing so. The ironic aspect of the incident is that Mr. Jackley could readily have obtained his weapon through anyone of a hundred sources without ever stepping foot in a gun shop. That is the tragedy, not the silly behavior of a student.

South Africa Lull As Nation Picks Up Pieces From Hate

Two weeks of violence and hatred have ripped apart the image of South Africa as a nation which seeks to assume the leadership of Africa. The fury that was unleashed against foreign workers in the country has never previously been witnessed and in the wake of what happened thousands of innocent people are left without a home, without clothes, without a job and without food. Estimates are that up to a 100,000 have been displaced and dozens killed as mobs rampaged through towns killing, beating and burning. At least 50,000 Zimbabweans and Moczambicans have left the country in fear of their lives. There are about five million immigrants in South Africa of whom at least half are from Zimbabwe where President Mugabe has destroyed the economy and viciously attacked opponents.

Reporters have found hundreds of people camped out near police stations huddling under blankets as winter begins. “We are living like dogs,” said a Sudanese refugee, “please tell somebody to help us.” Most aid to refugees is coming from church groups, relief agencies and individuals. Despite making speeches about how terrible everything was, government leaders are not initiating any large-scale relief efforts. The Red Cross has complained about the lack of national coordination to deal with the impact of the riots.

Perhaps, if President Mbeki would exert pressure on his close friend, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, a fair election in that nation would bring to power a government that would restore the wrecked economy and most probably result in millions of Zimbabweans in South Africa returning home.

Australian City Rejects Muslim School

The city of Camden in Australia rejected the application to build a Muslim school on “planning grounds” and insisted there was no prejudice intended. Former Sydney Lord Mayor said the rejection was strictly an example of prejudice.
“There’s a vocal group of local residents who are very opposed to this school because of the religious beliefs of the Australian citizens who want to establish the school. That’s not the Australian way and it’s not the Australian law, insisted Jeremy Bingham.” The Council had claimed lack of access to good transportation as the basis for their decision, but most experts note there are many schools in rural areas.

Cardinal George Pell, when asked about the situation responded: “We believe in religious schols. We don’t necessary believe they should be here or there or any other place, but we certainly believe in religious schools.” That is what is termed a ringing support of religious freedom!

Yemen Prisoners In Guatanamo Going Insane

Foprme Guantanamo Bay detainee, Sami Ali-Haji, claimed certain Yemeni inmates at the United States military prison in Cuba, have gone clinically insane because of “hallucinogenic pills” they were forced to take by guards. Ahmed Arman a lawyer with the human rights organization, the National Organization for defending rights and Freedom(HOOD), says “I have been told that Yemeni doctaor Ayman Badhrafi(still in cstody) became insane. Fuwaz Nouman, who recently came back to Yemen also suffers from serious psychological problems. Marc Falkoff, an American lawyer who represents many Yemeni detainee insists it is difficult to determine if somone suffers from a psychological disorder without an examination by a medical professional. However, the US military in the prison does not allow outside doctors to visit or treat prisoners.

Falkoff, says that “we lawyers have repeatedly sought permission from the military and from the judges overseeing our cases to allow us to bring a psychologist or psychiatrist with us to Guanatamo. In every instance, our requests have been denied.” Falkoff thinks a high number of prisoners are suffering from mental illness due to exteme isolation and has been told by the miltiary that about 10% of prisoners are suffering from mental illness.

Al-Haji worked as a cameraman for Al-Jazeera when captured in 2001 on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was detained in the Guananamo facility for seven years without any clear charges and then set free in May. he was not given an explanation for his detainment nor an apology. Yemeni detainees constitute almost half of prisoners in the prison. The American government has demanded promises from Yemen that returned prisoners would not be tortured. It is unclear whether the request means not tortured like prisoners are not tortured in Guantanamo or something else. The Yemen government insists it provided such assuarances.

Burmese Military Junta Continues Ignoring World

Surin Pitsuwan, head of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations(ASEAN) warned the Burmese junta it must allow foreign aid workers access to areas hardest hit by the cyclone if it wished to keep the trust of the international community. “What has to be delvered is real activities’ that allow the world freedom to help the thousands of Burmese people who continue existing without access to food or water, let alone places to live. ASEAN, along with the UN co-hosted a conference over the weekend which focused on helping victims and its reputation is now on the line. Although three weeks have passd since the cyclone hit, it is estimated only 40% of its victims have received any assistance.

Although there has been a slight improvement in speeding up visas there are still complaints of delays and frustrations. Surin noted: “There are many low-hanging fruits that can be harvested, and those include accessibility, delivering of supplies already on the ground, monitoring, and the ability to admit and allow foreign aid workers into the feld with less obstacles and less delay.” He warned the Burmese government ASEAN wanted results within a week or it would conclude there still was no commitment from the junta to support relief efforts.

Meanwwhile, in a slap at the world which is helping Burma, the ruling junta extended for one year the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi who has been confined to her house snce 2003. Burmese law stipulates a person can not be detained for longer than five yers without either being charged or released. But, the militay junta which boasts it received a 92.4% of the vote for its new constitution, has never been bothered by such issues as respecting the law. It decides which laws are respected.

Seek Juvenile Records Of Combat Veteran

A newspaper is seeking permission from a judge in order to inspect the juvenile court records of an Iraqi war vteran who is now being charged with the murder of an Army comrade’s death. They want the file of Kenneth Eastridge to be opened because at the age of 12 he was charged with reckless homicide in a juvenile court when he shot 12 year old Billy Bowman. Now, at age 24, Eastridge is being held in a Colorado jail along with two other former Army buddies for the alleged murder os Spc. Kevin Shields. State law allows juvenile files to be opened in special circumstances. Public Defender J. David Nehaus, who represents Niehaus, is arguing that juvenile files should not be opened just because the media wants to examine records in a current high profile case.

Niehaus is expected to argue that Eastridge suffered a serious head injury on his first tour in Iraq and was awarded the Purple Heart. His lawyer is arguing Eastridge suffered from post traumatic stress disorder which impacted his behavior upon returning home. This case is merely one of many which will be in the courts as PTSD continues impacting the lives of thousands of wounded Iraq war veterans. The fruits of the Bush invasion of Iraq will blossom long after the president leaves office.

Who Is Listening To Your Phone Call?

Germany’s Deutsche Telekom is being charged with engaging in a program in which hundreds of phone calls by customers were monitored. Senior executives ordered staff to check the phone calls because Klaus Zumwinkel wanted to plug an information leak after he was charged with having channeled millions of eruos in unpaid taxes to a bank in another country. The company, which is partially owned by the German government, denied using bugging devices but admitted that it had tracked calls. The evidence of this action apparently was leaked to the press by a data company based in Berlin which was contracted to conduct the surveillance because Telekom manatgers were concerned about leaks of sensitive information to business jounalists. Apparently, the company was upset that after doing its job, no one got around to paying it for the work.

We live in times in which George Orwell’s famous story about Big Brother has moved from fiction to reality. Who knows who is listening in to conversations and who knows the reason for the surveillance. We must trust that Big Brother is only checking the bad guys, but in this case it turns out the bad guys were the good guys.

African Unions Decry Anti-Immigrant Attacks

The Organization of Africa Trade Unions(OATUU) expressed its outrage at the failure of the South African government to protect the rights of immigrants during the recent riots which have torn apart that nation as anti-immigrant mobs roam the streets of Johannesburg. “It is unacceptable and against African tradition for poor African migrants to be made the victims of rage and frustration of the poor and unemployed black South Africans. It is aso against the spirit of Pan-Africanism and African unity, and a disservice to Africa’s economic intergration.” Hassan Sunmonu, secretary-general of OATUU, was particularly upset at the manner in which South African police and military forces failed to afford effective protection to immigrants.

African trade union leaders are furious at President Mbeki whose failure to act more decisively undoubtedly played a role in spread of violence. “We are particularly outraged by the massaive scale of the attacks and the apparent leisurely response of the law enformcement agencies who seemed unable to muster the will to apprehend the savage attacks. Judging from television footages, some of the wounded and dying victims were just left to their own fate, without any intervention by relevant municipal authorities to aid them or ward off further attacks.”

The Nigerian government believes most of the attacks were directed toward Zimbabweans and Somalis more than to people from Nigeria. Zimbabwean refugees have no government which will defend their rights and to return home is to return to the horror of starvation and life in a totalitarian state.